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EPISTEMOLOGY OF TONE: AN OBITUARY FOR JULIEN JALÂL ED-DINE WEISS

  • Stefan Pohlit
Abstract

During the 1980s, Julien Jalâl Ed-Dine Weiss, founder of the Al-Kindi ensemble of Aleppo, invented a qānūn in just intonation with which he attempted to solve a major discrepancy between the theory and practice of maqām-scales. Weiss objected to the introduction of Western standards, observing that they distort the significance of interval ratios and prevent a comparative understanding of the modal system as a transnational phenomenon. In the twentieth century, the implementation of equal-semitone temperament emerged simultaneously with a notable invasion of sociological criteria into musical inquiry. The polarity observed between westernisation and tradition can be seen most visibly in the present search for identity amongst Middle- and Near-Eastern musicians, but this schismogenic process can also be observed in the history of the Western avant-garde, where microtonal explorations have been halted in favour of extra-musical conceptuality. While cross-cultural musicians are faced with a new climate of distrust, it seems most likely that the principles that draw us apart may originate in the very patterns of thought in which our notion of culture operates. Weiss's tuning system may serve as a helpful tool to foster a new and universal epistemology of tone, bridging and transcending the apparent contradictions between the two spheres.

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The author acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Jack Adler-McKean in preparing this article for publication.

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Tempo
  • ISSN: 0040-2982
  • EISSN: 1478-2286
  • URL: /core/journals/tempo
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